"This is my country/The land that begat me,
These windy spaces/Are surely my own.
And those who here toil/In the sweat of their faces
Are flesh of my flesh/And bone of my bone."
Flashbulbs popped and cameras whirred as Mick stood at the threshold of 10 Downing St. “Are you going to give the Prime Minister a Glasgow kiss?” somebody, presumably from the tabloids, shouted; Mick ignored the question, and instead pasted a bland smile on his face. “I’m sure that the Prime Minister and I will have a very constructive preliminary discussion” he yelled over the din, before turning away from the nation’s- nations’ he corrected himself- media and slipping through the half-opened door.
As he did so, he thought of his birth. Not his first birth in Edinburgh and what followed- the abusive foster parents, the drugs, the drink, the thieving – that all happened to a boy named Graeme, not me- but the day that Mick was born; the day that, aged fifteen, he walked into Grove’s chippy in Finnieston, got a job, and began to turn his life around. It had all been such a natural progression from that day at Grove’s; compared to plucking up the courage to walk in and ask for a job, convincing dear, sweet old Peter Walsh to award him a Carnegie Scholarship had been simple. And then there was the Dialectic Society, and then Jim’s campaign in Govan… You’ve come a hell of long way since then laddie, he thought, smiling, a hell of a long way.
As the great black door swung shut and blocked out the noise of the assembled media, Mick found that silence came as a blessed relief. “Good morning First Minister,” the Permanent Secretary said, holding out his hand to shake. “The Prime Minister felt an informal setting might be best to commence proceedings, so if you will follow me I shall take you through to his personal apartment.”
“How thoughtful of him,” Mick said easily, shaking the proffered hand and allowing himself a slight moment of enjoyment at the other man’s surprise; his reputation as a political streetfighter meant that few people expected him to be so pleasant and courteous in person. “Care to show me the way?”
They passed up the famous stairs in silence, and as they did so Mick lingered at the portrait of Lord North. His companion noticed the pause and cleared his throat diplomatically; after a moment Mick carried on climbing the steps. His point had been made. He probably expected me to spit at Thatcher, he thought, but even then she was never the real enemy. After what seemed like an endless series of stairs and corridors, the Permanent Secretary finally stopped at a door, knocked quietly, and entered. Mick followed, and was surprised to see the slightly decrepit Georgian finery suddenly give way to wooden beam flooring, colourful modern sofas and a brushed steel and granite kitchen unit. “The First Minister is here sir.”
The Prime Minister got up from one of the sofas as they entered. He looks tired, Mick thought, but then he has every right to. I wouldn’t be sleeping well, if I was in his position. “Good morning, First Minister,” he said, with a weary smile, “please, sit. Can I get you something to drink?”
Mick shook his head as he perched on the nearest sofa. “I’m fine, thanks. And please, no need for formality. Call me Mick- everyone else does, if not something worse.”
The Prime Minister grunted. “Some of the personal attacks during the campaign were disgusting. I’m sorry about that; nothing to do with us, I assure you.”
Mick waved his hand airily. “I’ve heard worse in my time Tim, believe me. Frankly, if Farage hadn’t said what he had done, we might not be having this conversation; it was a very close run thing in the end.”
The Prime Minister looked thoughtful, doubtless pondering the few tens of thousands of votes that had signalled the end of the United Kingdom and his political career. Mick found his mind going further back though; back to when people much worse than Nigel Farage had not only told him that he had a punchable face, but had shown they meant it. Not me. It happened to Graeme. Yet if he could survive that, than he could survive anything. They’d always told him he’d never amount to anything; a wee Jakie trying to get a job in a chippy; a chipshop kid trying to get a university scholarship with no exams to show for it; a pikey upstart trying to take on Swinney, then the whole party hierarchy, then the whole Unionist establishment.
And hadn’t he shown them? He’d shown them all. People had used to laugh at his certainty- it was scary, they used to say- but hadn’t he been right? They said the SNP could never fracture the Scottish Labour establishment; he’d won 50 seats of 59. They said the SNP could never win a majority at Holyrood- he’d done it. And had he not turned a 17% deficit into a referendum victory? Who could argue with success?
Both men pulled themselves from their thoughts; Mick broke the silence first. He inclined his head towards the TV mounted on the wall, where Iain Glen was being menaced by some tentacled creature. “Is this Doctor Who?” I know you’re a massive fan- never got the bug myself. I heard you’d got yourself a cameo for the 50th anniversary.”
The Prime Minister pursed his lips. “Probably my finest achievement in politics, now” he said, ruefully.
Mick shrugged. “Scottish director, Scottish Doctor, filmed in Wales, funded mostly by English license fees- shows that we don’t need a Union to cooperate, doesn’t it?“
His companion remained silent. “For what it’s worth Tim, I am sorry. You’re a good guy, for a Tory, and you shouldn’t have your premiership defined by this. I still don’t regret putting you in Downing St in 2010; you couldn’t have done that without us smashing Labour north of the border, and we wouldn’t have got that Holyrood Majority the year later without you Tory bogeymen to put the wind up us. You’re a better Prime Minister than Brown ever was; when I abolished the Education authorities and put the Charter Schools in place, Labour just mocked them as “Wee Free Schools”; but you made no bones about following our lead. I respected that- just like I respected you sending Duncan Smith up to Easterhouse. You’ve done more for England than those shower of shite Labourites ever did for Scotland.”
The Prime Minister sighed. “Rhetoric aside, I respect you too Mick- but you broke up my country. I‘m only still sitting here in Downing St because nobody wants the humiliation of negotiating the settlement; Cameron, Osborne, Fox… they’re all circling, waiting for ink to dry so they can condemn me. The Mail’s practically calling me a traitor.”
Mick removed his glasses. “Tim, you need to understand, I didn’t break up your country; I’ve given it back to you! You need to understand that you might have thought you were British, but you weren’t, not really; you haven’t been since you were writing Thatcher’s speeches and I was fresh off the streets helping Jim get elected in Govan. England’s a proud nation- embrace it! You’ll always have friends north of the border, and independence makes that more true than ever, as we can organise things the way we like it. A Social Scotland and an Entrepreneurial England, what a combination. We’ll even vote for you in Eurovision! Better Together, indeed.”
He paused. “Besides, it could be worse- you could be sitting here talking to Alex instead of me…”
Both men chuckled, and after a brief silence, the Prime Minister cleared his throat, nervously. “There’s one other thing before we get started. I want these negotiations to be amicable, with no hard feelings on either side, and I have an item I thought you might be personally interested in. Think of it as a token of goodwill.”
He got up from the sofa and picked something up from the kitchen table, handing it Mick with a hint of nervousness. It was a manila folder; Mick looked at the Edinburgh City Council stamp on the front, then saw name printed on its cover: LOGAN, GRAEME. He looked up, sharply.
“A lot of records were lost in a fire back in the ‘90s, but some of what was left was put in storage in Newcastle. We pulled some strings and recovered this for you,” the Prime Minister said. “It has information on your birth parents inside; I thought that maybe you’d like to contact them?” He smiled. “You’re father of a nation now; I’m sure they would be very proud of everything that you’ve achieved.”
Mick looked at the folder for a long time. Finally he sighed, then carefully, reverently, handed it back to the Prime Minister. “Thank you Tim,” he breathed, “but the name doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. I haven’t been Graeme Logan since I was fifteen, and I walked into a chippy. That place was my parent, if I have any, and that’s why I bear its name. I’m Michael Grove. I am my own man, and I am the author of my own life story, as everyone should be.”
He brightened. “Now, let’s talk about how we rip up the Treaty of Union, shall we?”